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Author Topic: [3.x/4e] Encounter XPs are not a reward, they are a pacing mechanism  (Read 7454 times)
JMendes
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« on: June 30, 2009, 12:22:04 PM »

Hello, all, :)

I've been away from this place for almost two years, but now I have something which I think is worth sharing, so, I return.

For the past four and a half years, I've been running a fairly successful 3.5 campaign. It started with everyone at level 1 and rather recently, the last character in the party just reached level 14. (I described the structure of the campaign elsewhere. You can go read it if you want, but it's not central to my point.)

Lately, I've also being playing in a 4e campaign, where we have just reached 6th level, and I've been running another 4e campaign where I ran the mini-scenario at the back of the DMG and am now running Keep on the Shadowfell. The purpose of this other mini-campaign is to familiarize myself with the structure of a 4e game, so that I can put together my own campaign when the 3.5 one draws to a halt.

Most if not all of you already know that, in a 3.x/4e game, or, in fact, in any game, rewards are threefold:
  • First and foremost, there are social rewards. All three of these campaigns are unabashedly Gamist in mode. I can tell because of the way social reinforcement works around the whole of the table, in all three of the campaigns. The cheers and the hooplas go to the high d20 rolls. The nods of approval go to the good plans and good ideas. Everyone is most engaged in the game when the challenges are the thickest.
  • Secondly, there are rewards in the fiction. Regardless of the motives of the players, for virtually every fight, the characters have a reason to be there, and for them, winning is its own reward. For the players, there's the satisfaction of seeing the storyline advance because of their efforts and success. (In some but not all cases, this falls under Positioning rewards.)
  • Lastly, there are the mechanical rewards, namely, XPs, levelling and treasure. It's about this last one I want to talk some about.

From all this playing, I've had a chance to observe up close how XPs come by and how levelling affects the game, in general. The one thing I have noticed across the board is that, win or lose, sooner or later, the XPs always come. They don't really reinforce anything, and because encounter difficulties are supposed to scale up with the characters, they don't make the characters any better at facing challenges, either. As such, they're really not a reward.

(Aside: those of you that don't agree with me might like this proposition better: you can look at group XPs as actually a reward for the GM. The more difficult the encounter, the more XPs you get to give, but you run the risk of having the PCs fail, as well. So, encounter XPs reinforce creating tough but fair challenges.)

By the same token, levelling isn't a reward in and of itself. In all three of these campaigns, all the players are looking forward to levelling, not because it's a reward, but because levelling is what frames the next strategic challenge of how to continue the character build.

Also, if the GM goes strictly by the book, treasure isn't a reward either. It's true that treasure is really only good for acquiring more magical goodies, thus contributing to character Effectiveness. However, treasure is supposed to be given out on successful completion of encounters. As such, it goes hand in hand with XP, and we're right back at having magical goodies scaling in proportion to level. (In fact, in 3.x, XPs are actually Currency, in that they can be traded for magical items, which further reinforces my view that treasure is not independent from XPs and levelling.)

XPs and levelling work really well as a campaign pacing mechanism, though. As the characters come to each new level, the players must come to terms with how to best use their newly found capabilities. This means they are all the more likely to fail encounters at the beginning of the level than at the end. As they begin to consistently succeed at a given level, it's time for them to advance to the next one. Likewise, it's the for the GM to advance to the next level of critters.

So, whether it's XPs, levelling or treasure, we're left with rather solid campaign pacing mechanisms but virtually no mechanical rewards.

(Actually, this is not strictly 100% true. Characters that die get ressurected, and this comes with a cost, either a level and XP cost in 3.x or a temporary Effectiveness cost in 4e. So, one might say that there's mechanical rewards for "not dying", but because the players really play as a group, those particular rewards aren't really leading to any particular behavior, and as such, can probably be discounted from this discussion.)

Now, because social rewards and fiction rewards are so strong and coherent at all three tables, the lack of mechanical rewards isn't really a critical issue per se, and all three games are perfectly functional without them. However, for my upcoming 4e campaign, I'd like to go further and house rule mechanical rewards into the game.

There's two major routes I might take down this road:
  • The soft route: detach treasure from XPs. There's many ways to do this. For instance, I might give the players the encounter XPs whether they win or lose the fight, but only give them the treasure if they win.
  • The hard route: detach encounter level from character level. Again, there's many ways to do this. For instance, I might give the players XPs and treasure as per the rules, but track the total XPs at stake in every encounter, and scale up the encouters as if the players had won all of them, thus letting the relative difficulty inch upward.

Naturally, the exact details would need to be worked out. Also, either of these routes would probably require some sort of catch-up mechanism to counter-balance streaks of bad luck.

So, while I'd love some suggestions of house rules along either route (or any other route, for that matter), I'd also like to hear your thoughts on the concept of XPs being pacing rather than reward.

Cheers,
J.
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João Mendes
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« Reply #1 on: June 30, 2009, 01:54:23 PM »

I agree with you 150% on this one! I've been saying the same thing for years, that really matches my own experiences with D&D. Of course there might be other groups with different play, but in my play xp has always been a pacing device that controls how the game moves through different crunch environments. I think it's just intellectually easy (and lazy) to equate experience points with the theoretical concept of "reward mechanics", even while xp in many games has little to do with rewards.

The way I play D&D myself, it's really important to lose all the mechanical constraints that limit the mechanical strength of encounters; I all but despise the encounter guidelines in 3rd and 4th edition, as well as the determined wealth-by-level guidelines. It's an important part of the challenge at my table to judge the rewards and dangers for yourself and play accordingly; it's socially rewarded to play heroically, as it's not mandated and definitely not protected in any way. So pulling off a daring strategy makes for the most memorable characters and the biggest applause.

Speaking of rewards, I think that it works quite fine to have money be an in-fiction reward that is used to gauge social reward as well. In other words, characters in my D&D last winter were constantly seeking to get rich, which was in the fiction tied up with the typical mid-eastern fantasy oligarchic society - your social class was basically dependent on how rich you were, as were your challenges in the world, so players found it quite rewarding to gain and lose riches alongside social benefits such as contacts, allies and so on. It was one of many possible "victory conditions", essentially. Wealth thus was certainly part of the reward mechanics in a way that xp wasn't, but this also meant that it was not a mechanical issue in the same way: wealth could buy you advantages in the game, sure, but for the most part the characters didn't reinvest their wealth into their adventuring in the way modern D&D assumes.

It's an interesting question how xp could be a reward mechanism. In some games it is used to reward good roleplaying in a separate after-game judgment phase; perhaps that qualifies.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #2 on: June 30, 2009, 04:03:31 PM »

I would agree about XP in a certain way. Basically players acrue XP...and more XP...and more...how can you lose? Even if your PC dies, that just means going back a bit in an inevitable accumulation. Dying is just slowing the accumulation, it's not losing. And I'd say without losing there is no winning and thus it's not gamist. It may as well be a pacing mechanism. It's easiest if you imagine there was actually some other 'evil' points that add up whenever the players get XP and whoever gets X amount of points first, wins. That way you'd be competing with something and you could lose. But without that competition, even if it's just some evil points that rise on a random dice roll - it's just accumulation and yeah, I'd agree, essentially a pacing mechanic.

I almost wonder, as it's the largest 'reward' cycle there is, whether it can crush gamist impulses out of people regularly exposed to it...except for stubborn ones....*cough*
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JoyWriter
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« Reply #3 on: June 30, 2009, 05:50:03 PM »

Slight headscratch here, as I thought that this insight was included in the principle of "reward mechanism": The reward mechanism changes the game in a way that keeps the players interest, and encourages them to stay invested, for example by unlocking new gameplay, so that the person who levels up their character is actually enjoying the change from "fighting goblins" to "fighting dragons".

Increased ability to succeed is no reward, as it just nullifies the challenge, the reward is succeeding at better stuff!

Now this definition can only cover one kind of reward mechanism, but I think it is one; the unlocking of new conflicts as legitimate challenges. Also xp is a reward because it allows players to continue to flesh out their characters with the full force of the rules behind them, by making choices that are appropriate to their character within the class system.

There are many games where winning is a matter of time; almost every computer game in fact, where at no time does the game disk melt because you have failed at something, and not let you retry! In such cases the fact that you can get back up when you trip is less important than the direction you are walking in. 4e seems to get this reasonably well, with the idea of the different tiers and the epic destiny, creating a basic narrative about the character within the level/class system.

Now I should mention that I'm not claiming any dictionary powers here, just thought this stuff was part of the basic assumptions. Rewards/failures being temporary is fine, because they only need to operate on a level that is sufficient for reinforcement. You don't tell your dog off today for what he did a week ago, you forgive and move on, and bizarre though the analogy might be, it is quite similar to the "behaviour altering" component of a reward mechanism.

I also believe that any system that tries to teach players a lesson (in either the aggressive or instructive sense) should really have a lesson to teach, rather than just being a slap on the wrist for not meeting expectations: If you are trying to encourage something with such mechanisms, then you should also put in some work making the thing at the end of it in some sense a reward in itself, so they feel justified in playing your little pavlov game. Make treasure/beating stuff/quest completion matter to the player in their own way.

Now I suspect that last bit is actually very well known, but I thought I'd stick it in anyway.
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JMendes
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« Reply #4 on: July 01, 2009, 02:25:17 AM »

Ahey, :)

Cool, guys, thanks for your thoughts so far. :)

Eero, on the easy/lazy front, I don't know about that. In early D&D, the dungeons had their levels and encounter difficulty was keyed to dungeon level, not party level. In those circumstances, players had a sense of selecting the "difficulty level" they wanted, and were thus rewarded with XPs for selecting encounters that were tough, but feasible.

You should have no trouble recognizing what I'm talking about, as it's sort of implied here:

The way I play D&D myself, it's really important to lose all the mechanical constraints that limit the mechanical strength of encounters; [...] It's an important part of the challenge at my table to judge the rewards and dangers for yourself and play accordingly.

Speaking of which, how do the players at your table judge the dangers? Are you told the encounter level up front?

Anyway, it may, in fact, be lazy to design XPs as a reward in modern D&D, but players think of it that way because it's how it's written in the books. Either that or WOTC knows full well that it's about pacing but keep on calling it rewards because it's easier to keep the vast masses playing "correctly" that way...

As for rewarding good role-play, that's covered in the rules for 3.x, although it's glaringly absent from 4e. Even in 3.x, the DMG recommends keeping those awards to no more than 10% of the total XP awarded, and recommends awarding extra treasure, to "keep things balanced". In any case, I don't think I need to go that route. I'm talking about having actual mechanical rewards for success, not for other things. :)

--

Callan, you may or may not be conflating winning and losing with success and failure, but I'm definitely, emphatically not trying to inject "competition" into the games. You can have strong, solid, functional gamist play without it being competitive.

By the same token, the presence or absence of mechanical rewards will have little impact on those gamist impulses if the social and fiction rewards are aiming towards that, anyway, which they are, in my games. :)

As for the "evil points" thing you were talking about, I'm afraid I didn't grasp what you were aiming at...

--

JoyWriter,

(Hmm... I've been absent a long time, but back when I was active here, there was a culture of using real first names. Are we still doing that? If so, I'm João. What's your name? :))

The reward mechanism changes the game in a way that keeps the players interest, and encourages them to stay invested, for example by unlocking new gameplay

Yes, but what's being rewarded? In fact, that's exactly what a pacing mechanism does. It changes the game and keeps the players interested and invested.

I hear you on the part about making choices for your character when you level up. That's what I was talking about with the strategic challenge, though. It's still not a "reward", in the sense that it doesn't really create an incentive for any particular type of behavior.

In fact, if I read you correctly, you pretty much feel the way I do about the nature of reward systems. They're there to "teach lessons", to "alter behavior" and, in a sense, yes, they are a bit pavlovian.

The disconnect comes from this bit here:

There are many games where winning is a matter of time; almost every computer game in fact, where at no time does the game disk melt because you have failed at something, and not let you retry!

Absolutely, and if this were true, then yes, XPs would be a reward for trying and trying and trying again, until you finally succeed. Thing is, in my games, (and I venture in most other modern D&D games as well), there is no "try again". Succeed or fail, after one fight, there's the next one. And the next one after that. They scale up when they have to, hence the pacing thing, but the structure of the game is unchanged. (I'm not saying that success and failure are the same thing. They do have social as well as fictional consequences. I am saying, however, that XPs aren't part of that particular picture.)

Lastly:

Make treasure/beating stuff/quest completion matter to the player in their own way.

This is exactly what I mean by rewards at the social level. :)

--

Anyway, good stuff so far, and I'm glad to see I'm not the only one with this view...

Cheers,
J.
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João Mendes
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Callan S.
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« Reply #5 on: July 01, 2009, 03:27:40 AM »

Callan, you may or may not be conflating winning and losing with success and failure, but I'm definitely, emphatically not trying to inject "competition" into the games. You can have strong, solid, functional gamist play without it being competitive.
I don't necessarily mean competing against another person. The evil points was a reference to a game I ran where at the end of each session the player group got a D6 points plus one for certain objectives met, and 'evil' got a D6 points (or was it a D8?). Whoever got to X amount of points first, won the campaign - the other side lost. This was basically competing against a countdown, not a person.

But yes, you do need competition like this. It doesn't have to be against a person - everyone can be on the same team. But it does have to be against something that can make you lose, or atleast a series of winnable/loseable games amidst some overall exploration, or it isn't gamist. It can't be a matter of 'Well, you can lose...somehow...can't quite name how'. Even my dismissal of dying just being a delay in XP accumulation, can be losing if the group says it is (though as is, all editions of D&D just calls it death ... not losing, not winning, just death). Which ties back to the topic, because XP in itself doesn't really go anywhere by itself except as pacing.
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JMendes
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« Reply #6 on: July 01, 2009, 04:19:14 AM »

Ahoy, :)

at the end of each session the player group got a D6 points plus one for certain objectives met, and 'evil' got a D6 points

Ah, gotcha! Yes, that makes sense. In structural terms, that's pretty much the "hard route" I talked about in my first post.

Coolness, thanks for clarifying. :)

Cheers,
J.
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João Mendes
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« Reply #7 on: July 02, 2009, 01:30:14 PM »


Wow, do I really want to get into this conversation. Yeah, I guess so.

J. I agree with you that XP in 3rd+ edition is a pacing mechanism and not a reward mechanism.  I don’t know if this was the original design goal, but that’s how it functions. A reward mechanism in an RPG will encourage/promote the type of behavior that will provide the reward.  3.x/4e play has no real gamist reward save for the subjective fist-pumping and back-patting your group gets from “playing heroically” whether 1st level characters against goblins or 10th level characters against giants.

Yay.

You asked for our thoughts, so here are mine: to me this is pretty lukewarm gamism. In the end you’re not challenging much more than your ability to create an optimal stat-block to run through a formula encounter and earn a set amount of XP to facilitate a formula encounter at a higher level.  Hey, if I wanted to do this kind of thing I’d pay for a World of Warcraft account.

Recently I’ve been going back to my RPG roots…real Old School D&D of the pre-2nd edition variety. The interesting thing about it is that here XP accumulation IS a reward mechanism, not a pacing mechanism, and good play is mechanically rewarded IN PLAY.  Let me just two examples to illustrate:

-   XP is gained for actual treasure accumulated.  In general, XP for treasure is present at a much higher frequency than XP for monsters.  What does this mean? Players (not characters) will develop optimal ways of overcoming encounters (sometimes avoiding monsters all together…through stealth, trickery, negotiation) to get the most points (GPs = XPs) for their time and effort. You don’t have to hack, slash, and blow-up every encountered monster simply to “move to the next level of challenge” (3.x/4e play puts monster fights on a premium if you want to “open the new content” of the game).

-   Presence of an actual end game. When players accumulate enough XP they can become land owners and rulers…basically becoming kings by their own hand.  Here’s the use for all that XP laden treasure: building castles and hiring retainers. To my mind, this is the ultimate chest-thumping, one-upsmanship of gamist play: MY character’s a duke with acres of land-holdings and hundreds of servants that die for my armies and pay me taxes…what have YOU got?  PCs become actual movers and shakers in the game world, rather than simply wandering soldiers-of-fortune.

So, yeah…I think you’re right on about XP being pacing. My thoughts are that the concept is kind of lame for folks who have a gamist creative agenda. But if that’s what the kids want these days….

 
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Jonathan
JMendes
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« Reply #8 on: July 02, 2009, 04:48:18 PM »

Hey, Jonathan, :)

Coolness. We agree on the basics of the nature of XP. :)

By the way, in preparing for this reply, I went back and (re)read your whole "challenge the player" thread... :)

Also, I pretty much have different goals and preferences than you regarding the basics of where the challenge is or should be in any given session of adventure gaming. In our 3.x/4e games, we actually are looking for tactical gamism, and I can pretty much tell you it's there. In 4e, in particular, when we fight, it's not about seeing who wins. It's pretty much foregone that, unless something goes incredibly awry, the PCs are going to win. What I'm interested in is how much is it going to cost them. How many healing surges, and did they use their daily powers or not.

So, let's debate the non-basics, then, and see what sort of dialogue develops from this...

You asked for our thoughts, so here are mine: to me this is pretty lukewarm gamism. In the end you’re not challenging much more than your ability to create an optimal stat-block to run through a formula encounter and earn a set amount of XP to facilitate a formula encounter at a higher level.  Hey, if I wanted to do this kind of thing I’d pay for a World of Warcraft account.

Zooggy. Go figure. :)

Anyway:

XP is gained for actual treasure accumulated.  In general, XP for treasure is present at a much higher frequency than XP for monsters.  What does this mean? Players (not characters) will develop optimal ways of overcoming encounters (sometimes avoiding monsters all together…through stealth, trickery, negotiation) to get the most points (GPs = XPs) for their time and effort. You don’t have to hack, slash, and blow-up every encountered monster simply to “move to the next level of challenge” (3.x/4e play puts monster fights on a premium if you want to “open the new content” of the game).

Alas, this doesn't change the nature of the XPs. Players may or may not develop those "optimal ways". Either way, succeed or fail, after one set of goldz comes the next one. (Unless, of course, you are used to equating failure with death, in which case, you're talking about high-stakes vs. low-stakes, which is a whole other ball game altogether.)

Oh, by the way, stealth, trickery and negotiation are still options in 3.x/4e. In fact, 4e has this whole bit about building a skill challenge which is all about catering to the players' inventiveness and creativity outside of combat. But I digress...

Presence of an actual end game. When players accumulate enough XP they can become land owners and rulers…basically becoming kings by their own hand.  Here’s the use for all that XP laden treasure: building castles and hiring retainers. To my mind, this is the ultimate chest-thumping, one-upsmanship of gamist play: MY character’s a duke with acres of land-holdings and hundreds of servants that die for my armies and pay me taxes…what have YOU got?  PCs become actual movers and shakers in the game world, rather than simply wandering soldiers-of-fortune.

That's not it either. Those old games had specific (and unsatisfying, imho) rules for moving the arena of the game into that moving and shaking, but that up-manship is just as social as the rewards we do have at my tables. :) It's also very much a natural continuation of long term play, and as such, not really a "mechanical reward", either.

However, I do agree with you that those "old school" games had more teeth in their XPs.

As noted by both Eero and Callan above, if the world scales up with play time regardless of your success, then, yes, there is a very strong mechanical reward for success, as failure means not being able to keep up with the world. I believe that's where red box D&D and AD&D1 were, with their dungeon levels. Sooner or later, you're going to have to go down into dungeon level 2, and you better have reached character level 2 by then, or chances are you're not going to make it back out.

Unfortunately, none of this helps me any when it comes to having a mechanical reward for tactical gamism. :)

Cheers,
J.

P.S. By the way, I realize that this stated preference of mine is going to put me in the same camp as the "kids these days want this kind of lame concept", and I'm totally cool with that. We might debate the relative merits of that, but we would probably just end up re-hashing your other thread, so let's not do that. ;)
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João Mendes
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« Reply #9 on: July 03, 2009, 02:27:15 AM »

Tactics in D&D 3/4 is a matter of efficiency. You said it yourself.

How many spells or daily abilities/powers did you use up? How many items? How many hit points?

The reward is starting the next encounter with above-average resources if you've been efficient or lucky.

This kind of reward falls completely flat if encounters aren't mandatory. If the party can go through a full recovery after every encounter, then efficiency doesn't matter, all that's left if winning the encounter itself, which is practially guaranteed if you're fresh for each fight. The only way to lose is a complete party kill due to an impossible challenge, recognized too late.
I believe that this kind of play isn't step-on-up at all. There's no challenge, just the illusion of challenge.
Recognizing the impossible encounter isn't functional play, it's a GM desperate to introduce real challenge and failing because it's impossible in this context. (Hold on, I'm not saying impossible challenges aren't fair in general, just that they're a possible result of challenge-less play gone wrong. I think a lot of disfunctional party kills are caused by this.)

So what I'm saying is that in D&D, the reward for efficiency manifests from the insistence on a sequence of encounters. It's the last encounter of the day that's the real test. Suviving that last fight, when all becomes desperate, is the reward. When I play D&D, this is what I'm looking for.

There is more to it, though. There are plenty of opportunities to make efficiency and tactics matter in different ways in a single combat. Just pick a criteria and reward it in some way. In fact, players do it all the time without prompting:
I didn't lose any hp!
I got the first kill!
I killed the most baddies!
We didn't use any daily powers!

As GM, you can insert stuff that has more teeth, like:
Finish the encounter within four rounds, or the ship departs without you!
If you damage anything in the room you invoke the duke's wrath!
If anyone gets bloodied in this fight, you're met with scron.









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JMendes
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« Reply #10 on: July 03, 2009, 03:08:25 AM »

Hey, :)

Jasper, you and I, totally aligned. Totally. :) You'd have fun in my upcoming 4e thingie.

This kind of reward falls completely flat if encounters aren't mandatory.

[...]

in D&D, the reward for efficiency manifests from the insistence on a sequence of encounters. It's the last encounter of the day that's the real test. Suviving that last fight, when all becomes desperate, is the reward.

Indeed. I plan to hold a tight grip on the daily pacing, for exactly this reason. The trick is finding the balance. The 4e DMG is very explicit about how many encounters you need to face per level and about the encounter difficulty mix, but then, there's this whole array of daily effects and the significance of the extended rest is monumental, and yet, the DMG is eerily silent on a recommended number of encounters per day... :| It's one of the major flaws in the game balance as written, AFAICT...

As GM, you can insert stuff that has more teeth, like:
Finish the encounter within four rounds, or the ship departs without you!
If you damage anything in the room you invoke the duke's wrath!
If anyone gets bloodied in this fight, you're met with scorn.

Ah, yes, exactly! :) And, even though those are second-layer rewards (i.e. fiction rewards), they're still highly significant and they can be mode more significant, by tying that stuff in with what 4e calls minor quests. (Naturally, they still won't trump top-layer social rewards, but yeah, I know what I mean.)

Coolness. :)

Cheers,
J.
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João Mendes
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« Reply #11 on: July 03, 2009, 04:52:19 AM »

:) Well then you better write some AP posts about it when it happens!

I plan to hold a tight grip on the daily pacing, for exactly this reason. The trick is finding the balance. The 4e DMG is very explicit about how many encounters you need to face per level and about the encounter difficulty mix, but then, there's this whole array of daily effects and the significance of the extended rest is monumental, and yet, the DMG is eerily silent on a recommended number of encounters per day... :| It's one of the major flaws in the game balance as written, AFAICT...

It appears to me that everything written in the 4e DMG about pacing deals with pacing at the story or entertainment level, not the challenge level. It's all about keeping the players hooked to what is happenening, but not a word about survivability. It's just assumed that, with the ample opportunity to rest, challenge isn't an issue. The book appears to be all about crafting an entertaining railroad, and not about stepping up at all. For this reason I don't like the 4e DMG much. It basically tries to let you mimic an MMORPG, you let the players grind for the sake of grinding and throw in some story. Failure isn't a functional part of that. The players will at some point just say 'that's enough for today' and that's the end of it.

The 3e DMG was far more explicit in this regard. The whole thing was written with four level-appropriate encounters per day in mind, giving you a strict framework for challenge. In 4e, you're left to figure it out yourself.

In a way though, 4e is more honest about it, because really, 3e didn't have anything to enforce four encounters per day anyway. Perhaps they thought it best to let people figure it out for themselves.

Personally, I think it's all workable as long as you're upfront about your approach. Set your own standards as a group, evaluate them, and adjust if neccesary.

The most fun 3e play I had was a series of games I GMed where people were allowed to create any legal 10th level character, from a list of books specified by me. Then I would run them through four level-appropriate encounters and do my best to kill as many characters as possible. There was a fun story to it, but that wasn't the point, it was all about survival. The real challenge was for me, the GM, to actually kill any of those optimized PCs, with a budget designed to be survivable, playing by the rules. Everyone's boundaries were solid. That produced some real, desperate battles.
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NN
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« Reply #12 on: July 03, 2009, 02:38:48 PM »

Im having difficulty squaring the following circle:

i)  D&D - in any incarnation - needs the PCs in a party to be relatively equal level
ii) Meaningful xp rewards would mean having PCs at different levels

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NN
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« Reply #13 on: July 03, 2009, 04:38:57 PM »

The more i think about it, the more i feel that "increased character effectiveness" isnt much of  a "Reward".

For the group, effectiveness brings on more powerful foes. But, while new challenges may be fun, is bringing them on quicker more fun? Why not take the scenic route to power?

And then, within the party, different character effectiveness opens a whole can of worms.






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Callan S.
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« Reply #14 on: July 03, 2009, 05:12:02 PM »

Indeed. I plan to hold a tight grip on the daily pacing, for exactly this reason. The trick is finding the balance. The 4e DMG is very explicit about how many encounters you need to face per level and about the encounter difficulty mix, but then, there's this whole array of daily effects and the significance of the extended rest is monumental, and yet, the DMG is eerily silent on a recommended number of encounters per day... :| It's one of the major flaws in the game balance as written, AFAICT...

It's funny - when diablo 2 came out it and many of it's clones had slowly regenerating health. And I thought this was great, because I essentially treated it as an authorship tool - rush on after getting real hurt, or let a bit grow back then rush on. You weren't reliant on what health packs the game designer had left around the place, for a change (like in Doom, for instance) - you could decide healing in part, yourself. (and speaking of doom, much latter halo had a regenerating forcefield)

Being able to rest pretty much at any time, is similar. But having watched the D&D 'whats a DM to do' boards, it seems it can cease to be treated as an authorship tool by players and instead you get posts by GM's complaining about resting players and 'what to do?'. I've even said this to my friend Daniel, that we could usually just rest after every encounter, and he's hastily tried to say he would stop us if we did, with monsters. He didn't even see it as a player choice/authorship tool and instead the whole job of challenging us was on his shoulders, not partly on our shoulders as well by us declining to rest after every single encounter.

Mind you, textually it's not treated as any sort of player authorship tool. Which either makes it a glaring challenge wrecker, or people who are just playing (no authorship) and aren't resting after every encounter, are being scrub players (and learning bad habits in terms of how to win things)
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